A Hindu priest, serving a 12-year jail term after a jury convicted him of twice raping a worshipper, has had his appeal against the convictions thrown out.

Ramanathan Somanathan, 42, of Colvin Road, Thornton Heath, claimed evidence from two women of his sexual advances to them should never have been heard by the jury.

In a test case on the use of "bad character" evidence in criminal trials, his lawyers argued the judge's decision to allow the women's evidence made his convictions unsafe.

However, Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting at London's Appeal Court with Mr Justice Bell and Mrs Justice Dobbs, said Somanathan could have no complaint and dismissed his appeal last Friday.

Somanathan, who had privately funded his appeal, now faces a £9,000 legal bill. He was jailed for 12 years at Croydon Crown Court in February after he was convicted on two counts of rape.

A respected priest at the Sivaskanthagiri Arulmigu Murugan Temple in Thornton Road, Thornton Heath, Somanathan had abused his position forcing himself on his victim when he went to her home to give her a blessing.

Later, he went to the woman's house again on the pretence of handing her a gift he had obtained on a religious trip to the Himalayas - and raped her a second time.

Anthony Jennings, for Somanathan, argued that the accounts of two young women who claimed Somanathan subjected them to "sexually charged approaches" at vulnerable periods in their lives should never have been heard by the jury.

However, Lord Justice Kennedy said the women's testimony had been rightly admitted.

The judge concluded: "He has failed to substantiate any of his grounds of appeal, and accordingly this appeal against conviction is dismissed."